NASA’s Spitzer Captures Tarantula Nebula One Last Time Before It Retires

The Spitzer Space Telescope will be put to rest after 16 years of service on January 30 this year. Over the years, the space telescope has helped discover and study numerous exoplanets, galaxies and other cosmic entities.

To commemorate, the space telescope scientists have created a new image of the Tarantula Nebula, one of the first entities to be studied by Spitzer.

Spitzer project scientist, Michael Werner from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory(JPL) explained, “I think we chose the Tarantula Nebula as one of our first targets because we knew it would demonstrate the breadth of Spitzer's capabilities.”

The new high-resolution image is based on infrared data from Spitzer’s observations between February and September 2019. It is a composite image of the Tarantula Nebula as observed in two wavelengths of infrared light, red and blue regions that signify hot gas and interstellar dust respectively.

The Tarantula Nebula is located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, which is a dwarf satellite in the Milky Way galaxy.

The Nebula also hosts a hotspot for star formation, R136, which is a ‘starburst’ region with massive stars forming in a very compact space, one light-year across, at rates faster than the norm in the rest of the galaxy. This region of space has 40 massive stars that weigh 50 times as much as the Sun.

The SN 1987A was the first supernova to be observed and it is found on the outskirts of the Tarantula Nebula. While the star burnt out with the energy of 100 million suns over a period of months, the Spitzer space telescope has helped astronomers study the aftermath of this explosive death.

The shockwaves, on collision with dust, emit infrared radiation which was detected by the telescope to reveal that the dust was made of silicates, an important material for rocky planet formation. The scientists have continued to observe the supernova with Spitzer to understand the effects of the cosmic phenomena.

Source - Mashable India